THE DAY REPLAYED – The last two matches in Group B saw Cameroon and Turkey book their semi-final berths in contrasting fashion. Brazil are the big losers of the evening as USA were already destined for an early exit before the night’s action began. At Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Carlos Parreira’s Brazil buckled under the second half pressure applied by the rampant Turkish side who now face France in an exciting all-European encounter at the Stade de France. In the other semi, Cameroon face Colombia in an intriguing Africa v South America match-up.
The Indomitable Lions were already sure of a place in the final four before tonight’s game with the USA, so coach Winnie Schaefer took the opportunity to rotate his squad. He risked a second place finish (and a semi final against France), but he still fancied his side’s chances against an American outfit that had flattered to deceive in their two defeats. As it turned out, a scrappy match resulted in the tournament’s first goalless, and Team USA head home with a point to their name and little to shout about – especially after the promise they showed just twelve months ago in Asia.
It was only natural then that most neutral eyes should be focused on events in Saint-Etienne. At Stade Geoffroy Guichard everything was at stake with the last semi-final spot up for grabs. There was also an air of déjà-vu about the occasion after the two teams played out two of the best games of the last FIFA World Cup™ in Ulsan (Korea) and Saïtama (Japan) with Brazil edging Turkey on both occasions.
Some of the key players from those epic duels were missing tonight, but that mattered little as both teams went at it hammer and tongs in a heated contest. Indeed, the temperature on the pitch was only matched by that in the stands as the South Americans were given a very warm welcome in Saint Etienne.
After some whistled the Brazilian national anthem, the Turkish supporters gave a raucous rendition of their own, before falling into silence on 16 minutes. Rustu delayed his dash forward and Adriano had lobbed him before he knew it. Bulent Korkmaz then came to his country’s rescue – and not for the first time! The Turkish captain warmed the hearts of his watching countrymen with some heroic clearances, including one from his own goal-line that resembled the one he had pulled off against the USA four days ago. And it was Bulent who went over to the Turkish supporters to plead with them not to run on the pitch.
The fans had much to get excited about in the second half. When Trabzonspor midfielder Karadeniz lobbed Dida to draw his side level he did a lot more than score the 200th goal in the history of the FIFA Confederations Cup. He also committed Brazil to throwing everything forward in search of the victory they needed. That left them open to the counter attack – and Basturk did the rest.
Brazil, and their creative genius Ronaldinho are no more. The dashing PSG playmaker was even sent off at the death, a sad and somewhat symbolic end to an unconvincing tournament. Carlos Alberto Parreira, in his second stint as coach after leading the 1994 side to FIFA World Cup glory, always said he wanted to use this competition to learn more about his players. Let us hope he has learnt what he needed to know, because after tonight’s hot and humid activity, he can expect a warmish reception when he returns home.